It was day 28 of the longest month of the year…perhaps the longest month ever since a guy named Gregory came up with the idea of a new and improved calendar.
You see, I wanted to be slim. I hadn’t been slim since I was…well, actually, I’d never ever been slim. But our daughter, Chantelle, was slimmer than she’d been since she started birthing babies. Our formerly chunky son-in-law, Luke, was narrower than I’d ever seen him. And I was jealous. I’ve always wanted to be a leaner cut of meat. But that always meant serious hardships.
Yet there were Chantelle and Luke eating big fat juicy ribeyes. Drinking healthy (those I never listen to might even say unhealthy) amounts of vodka.
“Share the secret”, I begged, “Please, share the secret.”
“Keto”, Chantelle told me, “the only word you need to know, Dad, is keto”.
A Japanese word I presumed. I like sushi, I like sashimi, I might like keto. I’ll check it out.
Off my fingers walked to my local public library, the wonderful Wikipedia. I’ll share my keto definition in ten words or less, and no Japanese required: Eat generous amounts of grub but miniscule amounts of carbohydrates.
I presented the keto concept to Don Day’s Wife (to whom an ounce of weight loss is a pound of pleasure): “Today is September 30”, I said, “I’ve decided to be 175 pounds on October 31. Are you in?”
Of course, she was.
Keto isn’t about what you eat, it’s about what you don’t eat. In three words: pasta, potatoes and bread.
It went well. Very well. 10 pounds floated away in 12 days. The losses slowed but there was still progress, steady progress. But here we were on day 28. Three days to go. I was at 175.7 pounds, less than a pound from my goal and still very hopeful, but I desperately wanted something I’d had almost every week of my adult life. I felt like screaming it out like a spoiled child, “I want my pizza.”
It wasn’t that we had given up pizza. On a keto diet, mozzarella and pepperoni are no problem. Pile on all the peppers and mushrooms your gustatory cells throb for. But the crust…sorry, that’s a problem. There are the so-called keto crusts. Made from almond flour, coconut flour and the almost but not-quite-good-enough riced cauliflower. We’d tried them but no, they just weren’t pizza crusts.
It was a matter of necessity. And, as you know, necessity (not Frank Zappa) is the mother of invention.
How could we (or, more appropriately worded, she, as in Don Day’s Wife) create a desirable and delicious pizza crust that didn’t break the laws of keto?
We thought about diet-wise dishes with similar flavors to pizza. There wasn’t much. Just two received consideration.
First came cabbage lasagna (napa cabbage fills in for the noodles). It has cheese and tomato sauce and Italian sausage and is very keto but it’s also very…well…cabbagey.
The possibilities of our second pizza-like dish had us more excited. We are always head over heels about a good eggplant parmigiano (there’s a very good one at Denver’s Olivo Verde in San Miguel). What if you skipped the milk and eggs and breadcrumbs that usually coat the eggplant and just grilled it au naturel. Then you could pile on the pizza ingredients, put it in a hot oven and…maybe, just maybe…you might have something resembling a pizza with a decent crust.
With the toppings, Don Day’s Wife wanted to pay a tribute to one of the lost little gems of San Miguel de Allende, a restaurant called Osteria La Mia Italia and what they called pizza fantasia. With Don Day’s Wife’s version of fantasia, the toppings are mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, fresh Genovese basil, albacore tuna packed in olive oil, black olives, capers, and dried chiles.
Don Day’s Wife partially peeled the eggplant, sliced it about 3/4 inches thick, salted it on both sides, and put it on a rack over the sink for two hours (flipping it halfway through) to draw out the water and reduce any bitterness.
Then, she patted it dry and in the eggplant went into a very hot cast iron pan coated with vegetable oil.
After about two minutes, when the eggplant was a nice golden brown on the bottom, she removed it from the heat and flipped the slices.
The generous amount of toppings were then placed on top, layer by layer.
Don Day’s Wife used the Pescador brand of tuna that we purchase at liquor store, La Europea, in San Miguel.
Next, the cast iron pan went into a preheated oven at 450 degrees.
After about five minutes (when the cheese was all gooey and bubbley) out it came.
The result, I think, was extraordinary. The crust was crackly crisp on the outside, melt-in-the-mouth like meringue on the inside. The combination of the Spanish tuna and other ingredients worked beautifully. This was one of the best pizzas I’d ever had. And with only about 10 grams of carbs a slice.
I decided the pizza was worthy of having a name that honors its creator. Joining Charlotte Russe, Veal Oscar, Peach Melba, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Crepes Suzette would be Pizza Sharona (it being her more preferred name to Don Day’s Wife).
The following morning I awoke and went through the traditional routine. Grind the coffee. Put the kettle on. Have a pee. Strip of the jammies. Stand on the scale.
I had done it. I had hit my target. I had become a lean machine…well, OK, I had become a titch thinner. But I am never going to stop eating Pizza Sharona.